A/N: Mix of both the comics and the movies. Been working on it for a while. I know it's not perfect, but I just wanted to write something about Clint being deaf. Reviews are very welcome. I hope you enjoy it.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters from Marvel's Avengers Assemble. I wish I did
He wandered down the hall, his feet padding against the soft carpet. He had slept well, considering that Tony had been playing music for countless hours until Natasha had left her room and had broken the speakers. He had heard her snapping at Tony while the man had complained about Natasha breaking his things and as she stormed back past his bedroom door – her room was after his – he heard her muttering in Russian to herself, probably all curse words from the tone of her voice. Steve continued past the large living area they had – it had to be big to fit all of them in with some space between them – and stopped, looking at the sofa that was facing the window. Clint was sitting on the edge of one side, rubbing his eyes. Steve had come to learn that Clint was always awake early, even though he always seemed tired for around an hour or two after he had left his room. It wasn't unusual to see him already sitting there when you made your way to the living area in the morning, but for that particular day, it was. Clint had been on a mission for about a week and a half, somewhere across the country. He must have returned during the night, probably before Natasha had broken Tony's toy, or whatever it was. Clint must have returned home right away instead of going to SHIELD to report back and be debriefed about his mission.
"Good mission?" Steve asked him, watching Clint now rubbing his forehead. Steve frowned slightly. It wasn't like Clint to ignore him. Perhaps he was a little grumpy that morning, from having such little sleep. It must have been the early hours of the morning when he had returned, and here he was at nine in the morning, sitting in their living area.
"Clint?" Steve turned around fully, watching the man. He was bouncing one of his legs as he rubbed his forehead, evidently trying to wake back up.
"Clint?" He tried again, but he was still being ignored. Steve wondered what he could have possibly done wrong for Clint to be ignoring him. He couldn't think of anything out of the ordinary that he had done. He was always polite to Natasha, so it couldn't be anything to do with her.
"Clint?" He decided to say the man's name for a third time, desperate for him to answer. He heard a slight laugh behind him and turned to see Natasha looking at him softly; holding two cups of what he assumed was coffee. It was all the two ever seemed to drink, except for the odd bottle of vodka that Natasha consumed every now and again.
"He can't hear you." She said quietly. "He's not wearing his aids."
"What?" Steve's eyebrows knitted together, looking at the woman. Her hair was curlier than normal, and her eyes were a little brighter now that Clint was back with them. She was wearing black pyjama bottoms with a red robe covering her top half. She rarely left her room dressed in her pyjamas, as most of the time she left early to go to S.H.I.E.L.D. As he thought about it, Steve hadn't really seen her in any other clothes than her suit. It was strange to see Natasha look so normal, and act so normal. The times that she was there in the morning, she normally snapped at Tony until she had finished her third cup of coffee, and then she had left. She never seemed to be in a good mood most mornings, but Steve thought that was because Tony liked to hide her mug when he knew she was there.
"His hearing aids," she told him, still standing in front of him. "He's not wearing them."
Steve turned his gaze to Clint, who was still unaware that Steve was standing there. His eyebrows were still locked in a frown as he looked at the man, watching him stare out of the window. He turned back to Natasha, who had her gaze fixed on the back of Clint's head.
"His hearing aids?" Steve asked. Natasha tilted her head to look at him, nodding silently.
"He's deaf, Steve."
Steve's head snapped back around to the man on the sofa. Steve had never known that he was deaf. In fact, he had never even seen him wearing hearing aids. He had always assumed that Clint could hear perfectly fine. Thinking of the most recent times he had spoken with Clint. Nothing had seemed out of the ordinary, but then again why would it? Steve couldn't quite comprehend the fact that in all the time he had known Clint, he had never even noticed that he was deaf.
"Has he always been deaf?" Steve had to ask. He kept his eyes trained on Clint as Natasha's footsteps drew closer, putting her level with himself.
"No," she admitted quietly. "Do you remember when we left for Amsterdam?"
Amsterdam. He remembered it very vaguely. Clint and Natasha had left on a mission together, gone for almost three months, from what he could recall. They had been sent in to 'tie up loose ends' or something along those lines. It had been around nine months ago that they had returned.
Natasha turned to look at Steve, studying his expression from the side. The look of genuine shock on his face made her feel slightly uncomfortable. She wasn't surprised that he didn't know Clint was deaf. Nobody knew but her and Nick Fury himself. She turned her gaze back to Clint, noticing that he had started to fall back asleep with his head in his hands. He had barely gotten any sleep that night, even after she had broken Tony's speakers and snapped at him. Clint had just lain in bed beside her, unable to fall asleep.
"We were separated for a short time. He went to one building, I went to another. We were supposed to meet up..." Natasha trailed off. "I heard it before I saw it happen."
"He used one of his sonic arrows," she sighed softly.
They had been in Amsterdam for two months when it had happened. She remembered the arrow impacting, releasing the most horrifying sound she had ever heard. The sound had pierced her eardrums, making her momentarily lose her concentration. She was kicked in the stomach and the force knocked her backward into the glass panel that was all that kept her from plummeting three stories down to the hard concrete that the building was sitting on. She flicked her gaze out of the window, trying to regain her concentration, when she saw the next building start to collapse. It was crumbling in the strangest way Natasha had ever seen – it looked as though the middle floors were being sucked inward, making the ones on top collapse in on themselves. It was like a gravitational pull to the middle of the building – where the arrow had impacted. She managed to tear her gaze away as her attacker aimed a punch for her jaw. She ducked, letting him hit the window at full force. She quickly slipped between his legs and stood, kicking him in the back, making his entire body hit the glass instead of just his hand. She swung her leg upward and kicked him the back of the head, making him hit it again. She gave one final roundhouse kick, placing her foot in the centre of his back, before the window shattered, letting him fall out. As he landed face down, Natasha heard the sickening crunch of bones shattering as the building across from them hummed. She moved as fast as she could out of the building, hoping with everything she had that Clint had gotten out before he had released the arrow. By the time she had made it across, the building had completely turned to rubble. She called for him, pressing her communicator into her ear as she shouted his name over and over again. Anger started to bubble in the pit of her stomach after she had called for him a seventh time, with no answer. She started moving through the rubble carefully, looking for him. She could see an odd arm here or a leg there, sticking out from underneath the broken pieces of the building. She had no idea how many Clint had been up against – the building she had entered had only ten men in it, meaning short work for her. After roughly twenty minutes of looking, she heard a groan coming from the opposite direction in which she was going. She turned on her heel and moved swiftly, still ready to strike in case it wasn't Clint. Fortunately, it was. He had his hands pressed against his ears, his eyes screwed shut in pain. She couldn't see any physical injuries on him as she looked him over, assessing him. Natasha crouched beside him, wrapping a hand around one of his wrists. His jaw was locked as he tried to stop himself from yelling out. She tightened her grip, trying to get attention. His body seemed to jerk and then stop, his hands slipping from his ears. Natasha felt his arm go slack and she released him, letting it slide down across his chest and to the side of his body. She checked his pulse and breathed in heavily, thankful he was only unconscious. She pressed the communicator in her ear, calling for a medic.
A few hours later and Natasha was sitting across from Clint's bed, watching him rest. They had both been checked over when they had been brought to the hospital, even though Natasha had snapped at them in their own language that she didn't need a doctor. Clint had been rushed off, but nothing had been seriously wrong with him. It was now just a matter of him waking up, so Natasha could tell him how stupid she thought he was to use one of those arrows in such close range to himself. She knew that he wouldn't have used it unless it was absolutely necessary, but the fact still remained that he hadn't gotten out of its range. Something must have prevented him from leaving – he knew how dangerous those arrows could be.
She kept her eyes trained on him, waiting for his to slide back open. They eventually did, and he slowly started to move.
"Tasha?" He sounded dehydrated and weak, coughing slightly as he tried to sit up. She got up from her chair and used one hand to gently push him back down by his shoulder, making him squint up at her.
"Don't move." She murmured.
He settled back, watching her as she moved to get him a glass of water. She held the small cup out for him, allowing him to move enough to reach for it and bring it to his lips. The cool liquid raced down his throat, making him splutter. Natasha took the cup from him, holding it carefully in one hand. The other remained on his shoulder, making sure he didn't move again.
"You're an idiot." She said bluntly, studying his face. He looked at her, making no response. She decided to continue, finally able to let her anger out about the situation. She set the cup down, her eyes burning into his as she started to talk.
"That building could have crushed you because of that arrowhead. What were you even thinking? You should have gotten out of range and then released it, not while you were still standing there in the middle of it all, Barton!"
Clint was giving her a funny look, somewhere between confusion and shock. She narrowed her eyes, waiting for him to reply to her. She crossed her arms, starting to tap her foot down. She wasn't going to stand for this, to just have him sit there and ignore her, mocking her.
"Is this a joke to you? Do you not care about anything?"
"...I can't hear you." He finally said. His eyes were empty, glassed over as he looked at her.
"What?" Natasha growled. "That's not funny, Barton. Don't act dumb."
"What are you saying?" Clint asked. She noticed that he wasn't looking at her eyes, but at her mouth. He was trying to lip read.
"This isn't funny." She said through gritted teeth, slowing it down so she could play along with his game. He looked at her, slightly lost.
"I'm not joking, Natasha."
That was when she knew he wasn't lying. He didn't call her Natasha, not unless it was important. He had always called her Tasha, a name that had stuck with her since their first mission together. He had said it once, she had growled about it, and it had stuck with her. She had come to accept it over time, even growing fond of the nickname he had given her. It was a nickname that only he could call her by – anyone else and they would have a broken jaw within seconds.
She looked at him, her anger dying down a little in the place of genuine concern. The arrow must have done more than they thought it could. She called for a Doctor, who made her leave the room as he checked Clint over again. Natasha watched him through the window, seeing Clint looking slightly helpless. She started to nervously chew her own bottom lip, watching every move the Doctor made.
"He's deaf." The Doctor said quietly to Natasha. She was now back to her place beside his bed, and had been there for two days, give or take a few hours. They had tested Clint over and over, but no outcome had been any different. He was growing agitated and frustrated, knowing full well what he was before the Doctor had even confirmed it. There was a notepad lying on the cabinet next to him with two pens sitting on it – he and Natasha had been writing notes to each other since realising he couldn't hear. By now, the notepad was almost filled.
"He's completely deaf?" Natasha asked, looking at Clint. He was currently sleeping, snoring softly.
"Eighty per-cent." the Doctor replied.
"Is he going to get it back?" That was what she was most concerned about. She turned her eyes from Clint and focused on the Doctor, who sighed heavily.
"I'm afraid not."
Natasha's mind started to race. It would be so difficult for Clint to adjust to not being able to hear. She had never thought about losing the sense until it had happened to him. The frustration he was going to feel and the anger would consume him for quite some time.
"He'll be able to use hearing aids," the Doctor's voice said quietly. "As he's not completely deaf, they should work for him."
Clint stirred as the Doctor spoke, blinking and trying to focus right away. Natasha reached out and touched his arm softly, letting him know that she was there. He looked to her instead of the Doctor, focusing his eyes on hers.
"Tasha?" He asked. He had noticed the concern in her eyes, studying her face. She reached for the notepad sadly, writing the information she had just learnt down for him. She passed it to him, watching his expression become blank. He gestured for the pen and she passed it to him, watching him write slowly. He passed the notepad back, and she shook her head as soon as she read it. He didn't want the hearing aids.
'You need them, Clint. You'll be lost without your hearing.'
'No. I don't want them.'
He pushed the notepad back to her and she could feel the anger radiating off him. She knew he felt embarrassed, and frustrated with himself for being in range of the arrow. He could be so stubborn sometimes that no amount of talking – or writing, as it were now – could persuade him to do something that he didn't want to. He wasn't going to budge on the idea of the hearing aids. At least, not now he wasn't. The Doctor excused himself and Natasha leaned back in her chair, watching him stare pointedly across the room, away from her gaze.
"I don't want them."
She carefully reached out her hand and took his in her own, rubbing the back of his hand softly with her thumb. They stayed like that for hours, never moving.
A week had passed before she had convinced him – or demanded – that he needed the hearing aids. He had been stubborn at the start, but as time went on he had started to warm to the idea. The agreement had come into place after Natasha had spoken to Fury about the situation, who had said that would need the aids if he were to continue with his work. Natasha had furiously written down that if Clint didn't have the aids then he would be reduced to sitting in an office and doing paperwork, which he already hated even though he rarely got any. Clint had caved in, agreeing to have them. They had been fitted in no time at all, and Clint found that he could hear perfectly well with them. He wouldn't admit it to her, but he had missed the sound of her voice. They had managed to speak properly after he had his aids fitted, and had left the hospital not long after. From there on, it was adjusting to his hearing aids that caused trouble. He took them out at night and when he woke back up, he forgot to put them back in. He found it hard to adjust to having them there. More than once had he snapped that he wanted to get rid of them and threatened to throw them away, but Natasha forced him to keep them. It was another two weeks before he had adjusted to them properly. The week after, they had returned back to S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters and he had gone off immediately, complaining about the hearing aids. Natasha left him to it, reporting back to Director Fury about their mission and Clint's injury in full detail. Halfway through her report, Clint had returned. When asked where he had gone, he said he had been busy. He never elaborated, so they never asked. He then left again after the meeting, hurrying away quickly. Natasha watched him curiously, but never questioned. The next day she found that she didn't have to, because he had walked into her office holding two tiny, completely clear hearing aids. He had made them so that nobody would ever know that he was deaf. He didn't want to be treated any differently just because of what had happened. Natasha assumed he had worked on them all night, judging by the bags under his eyes. As he put them in to test them, he could hear every word she uttered perfectly. That's when he asked her not to tell a soul about it. She never had, up until now.
"He doesn't want anybody to know," Natasha told Steve softly. "He thinks it makes him weak."
"Come on Steve, he doesn't have superpowers or a suit like Tony. He's just a guy with a bow." Natasha said. "He's not like you."
Thinking about it, Steve realised what she meant. Clint was vulnerable. One hit from a bullet in the right way and he would be over. He could protect himself, Steve knew that. Without his bow though, he was normal. He was just a man, running around with superheroes and gods, playing in games that were far too big for him. He had never seen Clint as anything less than a warrior, but when Natasha pointed it out, he could.
"I've never thought of it like that before." Steve admitted to her.
"Nobody ever does," Natasha replied. Steve looked back at Clint, who was now asleep on the sofa, leaning on the arm for support.
"Don't think of him any differently." Natasha told him, gaining his attention again. "Don't think that he's weak."
"I wouldn't." Steve said. "He's not weak... He's stronger than I thought he was."
"I know." Natasha nodded. Steve took one last look at him and then decided to move back to his room, leaving Clint and Natasha in peace.
Natasha watched Steve travel back down the hallway, before moving to the sofa and placing the mugs on the table in front. She slid beside Clint, studying his face. She touched his cheek softly, a gesture that she wouldn't do unless they were alone. She rubbed his arm softly, waking him up. He blinked a few times before focusing on her, a sleepy smile on his face.
"Tasha." He whispered, pulling her closer to him.
She allowed him to wrap his arm around her shoulders, resting her head on his chest. She felt him settling back down to sleep again, and couldn't help smiling softly at his light snores that were now beginning to happen. She looked up at him, placing a soft kiss on his jaw. He was strong, and most times he was her rock. She would never admit that to him or to anyone, but he was. His strength made her strong and he kept her going, no matter what it was. He was always there to help her overcome it, to fight by her side. His deafness made no difference to their relationship. It was something that they had overcome together. She settled beside him, allowing herself to drift off, listening to his heartbeat. She would never say it out loud, but he was her hero.